Please sign in to post.

Newbie question about luggage

I’ve been reading some posts and the luggage debates can be overwhelming. So before I start looking at specific pieces and types, I want to see what the consensus is based on how we plan to travel. Then I can try to narrow this very broad field down to manageable pieces.
Okay, taking a River Cruise. Spending a few days in Switzerland (mostly Murren) then a few days at the end in Amsterdam. Taking public transportation.
Hubby and I are early and mid fifties. Pretty fit but we aren’t athletes by any means. We will be traveling about 11 days and I have every intention of having some laundry done on the boat so we can pack lighter.
I figured we would each check a rolling bag and take a carry on (that could be hooked around the rolling bag) or a medium sized backpack. Except for one stop in Lucerne, we would head straight to hotels in each city.
But I’m rethinking this strategy as lots of people here prefer basically two carry ons. One under the seat and one above the seat. Like a small roller and a backpack.
Is it really a lot of trouble to check a bag? I know it means a wait at the airport but what other reasons would we NOT want a larger bag?
Thanks so much!!

Posted by
5052 posts

You're basically setting yourself up for the perennial check/don't check your luggage argument. Some are terrified of having a bag lost or delayed, despite the slim chance of this happening and will only ever do carry on.. Some are happy to accept the very slim chance of a lost or delayed bag and will check their bag for the convenience of being able to pack more, and not have to do laundry every other night.

Pretty much everyone here will say that large suitcases (like the 28") are not appropriate at all if you are going to be using public transportation (like trains or buses) on your trip.

We always check our bags on flights, and manage just fine on trains with our 24/25" bags, plus day bags. You just have to be able to manage them yourself, lifting them up or down on the trains. There's no right or wrong, only what works best for you.

Posted by
5697 posts

We do what you planned -- check a 22" roller bag each and carry on a personal item with medications and an emergency change of clothes. One advantage to checking a bag is for items that are not allowed as carry-on such as larger bottles of liquids and wine openers. (EDIT -- and a Swiss Army knife.)
This has worked for trips of 6-8 weeks using trains, planes and cars.

Posted by
4174 posts

Because you don't need that much capacity. Because the bigger the bag, the greater the temptation to fill it with stuff you don't really need. Because the more stuff you have, the heavier the bag gets. Because the bigger and heavier the bag is, the harder it is to manage on your own.

Because you will have to get on and off public transportation (trains) quickly. Because you must be able to do that without getting help from anyone else.

Because there may not be elevators where you stay and you may need to carry your bags up and down stairs.

The only time I check a bag is if I'm forced to do so because the plane's overhead bins are too small even for an international size 2-wheeled bag.

It all starts with your travel wardrobe and a light weight carry-on bag. I have two 22" wheeled carry-ons that weigh between 5 and 6 pounds and two international ones that weigh between 4 and 5 pounds. Whichever one I use, if the fully packed weight goes over 22 pounds, I take things out until it doesn't.

Obviously, you have to wear something, so you end up actually packing less than the total number of garments you take. In my case, I always wear lace-up boots when out and about, on trains or changing locations. I never pack them. Many times they've kept me from turning an ankle or falling on slippery cobblestones or rough terrain.

I'm now 75 and will be 76 by next summer when I go to Ireland and Wales for a total of 5 weeks. I pack for a week and do laundry as needed along the way. I travel solo. I appreciate and will accept help when offered, but I don't count on it. Amusing for me is that the offers of help have increased as my hair has gotten grayer, at least in Europe. 😉

Posted by
18577 posts

This is sort of like the train vs plane discussion. Its all preference. I've traveled for weeks with a carryon and a back pack (I'm 65). But sometimes I just say the heck with it and check a bag. If I were trying to do your trip my preference would be to not check a bag. Either way your trip will be very enjoyable.

If from the airport, with carryon only, you will reach your hotel about an hour sooner if you take a taxi. At the end of a long international flight that means something to me. Might cost you $25 to $50 more than the bus. But how much are you spending on this trip?

Posted by
15580 posts

Here we go.....

Your choices:

1) Size--check in/carry on

2) Wheels/no wheels

3) If wheels, two wheels/four wheels


You will get all types of responses from those who think just taking a carry on is absurdely ridiculous to those who think traveling with wheels is a sin against humanity. And everything in between.

There are pros and cons to each. Think about when you will be transporting your bags and what is necessary. Then decide what you would feel comfortable with. There is no right answer except the one that is right for you.

Here's what you will have to consider:

1) How will you be traveling from each point A to point B?

2) How much handling of the bag will you be responsible for? If you are taking public transit, you will have to carry/lift the bag on and off. If underground you may have to carry the bags up and down stairs. In some places it may mean walking a distance on rough surfaces and/or up and down hills.

3) If you decide to take a smaller bag, can you make do with taking less? Some can, some can't.

My only suggestion would be not to have four rolling bags. Make your "under the seat" bag something you could either put on your back or hang from your shoulder for those times you have to lug your bag up and down. (A trolley sleeve on them as well makes it easier.)

And I agree with James, sometimes it's just easier to take a taxi than try to deal with public transit. Especially with luggage. But not always.

Posted by
2792 posts

One important thing to keep in mind for the Swiss trains: I was just there and the only luggage storage option was the racks up above the seats. None of the trains we were on had the nice luggage racks I have seen in pictures at the end of the train cars. So, in addition to getting the luggage on and off the trains, make sure you are able to lift the suitcases up over your head and that it’s small enough to fit on the overhead racks. Luckily, I was traveling with my bro in law who could lift our 26 inch suitcases up. I could not. For this sole reason, I am downsizing to a 22 inch suitcase for my next trip to Switzerland in June. And even the 22 inch will be a bit of a struggle for me to lift overhead. I am working on my arm strength. 😊 And I’ll be checking the 22 inch and carrying on a separate smaller bag.

Posted by
2768 posts

So you want one bigger bag that holds most of your clothes and items - your “suitcase”, in whichever style you prefer. Then you want one smaller bag that goes under the seat, holds essentials for the flight and ideally doubles as your walking around day bag during the trip. If you prefer a very small day bag, then it can go inside a slightly bigger under seat bag for the flight.

For the bigger bag, the debate is whether to make it a carry on that goes above the seat on the plane or a checked bag - one that gets checked into the airline and you retrieve at baggage claim.
Your decision on this depends on how likely it is for your bag to get lost if you check it (tight itineraries, changing airlines, multiple stops all increase the risk). Your airlines rules around size and weight - some are very strict on what size bag could be carried on so you might prefer to check a bag to have more room. Be sure to confirm size and weight limits on the airline’s website.

I prefer to carry on everything but am not dogmatic about it - there are some trips where checking a bag makes sense for me. The key is to not bring too much even if you check your bigger bag. You will still need to lug it around with you and lift it on trains, and manage it in small rooms.
If you choose to check your larger bag, you do want to make sure your absolute necessities are in your carry on. Bags do get delayed. Rarely are they actually lost forever, but you still might not have your items for a few days. So have valuables and necessities with you on the plane. That would be necessary medicine, expensive things, things you will want ASAP off the plane like a toothbrush.

Posted by
873 posts

After many trips I actually pack exactly the same for a short (ok not for just a weekend) or a long trip. Mix and match.... Coordinating colors that can all be washed together. One white item for example will require hand washing only... Try laying out the clothes in as many "outfits" as you can identify... Are you missing something like a colorful scarf that dresses things up, but doesn't add much weight or volume. Lay out the clothes and exactly as much "product" (pills, toiletries, etc) needed for the trip and see how much space they take up. That may change your choices of clothes, and your thoughts on the size of bags you need. I strongly recommend a comfortable backpack since it leaves two hands free for money, cup of coffee, and lifting the other bag. Pack your bag and drive to a park and take a walk around for 15 minutes. How does it all feel? And, almost everything you forgot can be bought in Europe if it becomes necessary except particular pharmacy items (Ibuprophin, for example, comes in 20 pill blister packs, not 500 caplet bottles) but the cruise ship store may have them also. You don't say when the trip will be, but the mountains can be cool and rainy at any time of the year, so be prepared for that, not just for the cruise.

Posted by
8600 posts

CissyK, we've done what you are doing: river cruise with a few extra days in Switzerland. We each checked a wheeled 24" bag plus a carryon. Since you are in one place the majority of your trip (your ship cabin) its not as important to minimize as if it were all an independent trip. Besides, we ended up buying 10 lbs of gouda, and a couple of bottles of wine on the cruise, so we needed the room. Yes for the days on your own, its a bit of a hassle, but manageable. You'll only be making only a few journeys on your own.

Many people here advocate carryon only, because it makes a quicker entry and exit, and travel between destinations is easier. But in this case, the ship is doing most of the work. People also want to avoid the "lost luggage" thing, but that doesnt happen as much as it sounds. Just dont pack it full. You also might be able to get a load of laundry done while still in Switzerland.

Take note that many European air carriers have a weight limit on carryon bags (some around 8 kg) that make it difficult to pack a whole trips worth of stuff just on a carryon.

Posted by
2568 posts

I just wanted to add that you should make sure to buy a light weight suitcase. I have a travel pro that I love. I bought it after I struggled on trains with my former suitcase and realized I could drop five lbs without packing any less with a lighter suitcase. Mine is 22 inches and have found that and a back pack very adequate. I usually carryon but did check coming back from Greece so I could take home bottles of wine!

Also, I think two wheels are much easier to maneuver in Europe. The only time I wish I had the four wheel version is going on the plane where they excel.

Posted by
8547 posts

I’m going to tell you a secret, but don’t let it out as it will eliminate so many threads on this forum……..
There is no one right way to pack.

There are some basic guidelines that can be useful. Don’t pack more than you can personally handle yourself. Be able to lift your carryon into an overhead bin or rack. The more public transport you use, the easier it will be to travel with smaller sized bags. You can buy almost anything you might find yourself needing there so bring what you know you need, not what you “might need.”

It sounds like you have a great trip planned. Enjoy!

Posted by
1542 posts

A different perspective........... challenge yourselves to pack so efficiently you may need to purchase a forgotten/critical item while on your journey. Our first travels, 50 years ago, entailed carrying so much we could have outfitted an army platoon. Today, and for the past thirty years, we carry a maximum of five days of clothing and purchase a couple of wearable items while on the trip (clothing makes a great wearable souvenir). We use one carry on and one stylish back pack each and never check luggage. Our journey greatly benefits from no worries about checked luggage and the ease of NOT being luggage mules while moving from destination to destination.

Posted by
302 posts

Pre- Covid I was a devotee of carry on only regardless of destination. I have taken 3 domestic USA plane trips cross country ( 2 unplanned family emergencies) in the past 2 months and with all the travel challenges (cancelled flights, tight connections) I still just feel better having all my stuff with me should I need to change flights, etc. The biggest thing I learned is to pack as if for 3-4:days and re- wear things, just hand wash underwear nightly. My husband uses a 26 inch suitcase whether for an overnight ora big trip! You should do what will work safely for your needs.

Posted by
3244 posts

I pretty much pack like Lo, including the weight. I aim for 20 lb., but in the end might go slightly over. You should and must be able to handle your luggage by yourself, at least fairly easily. You never know what will happen to force you to handle it alone or add on your partner’s luggage to the mix.

This being said I usually check my carryon wheeled suitcase as I prefer not having my luggage with me in the airport. When deplaning from an international flight, I find my luggage is arriving in baggage claim at the same time I am (except CDG, which I try to avoid). Carryon all your necessities and a change of clothes, just in case your luggage is delayed. Don’t be afraid to check your bag unless you have an unusually short layover and you are not staying in the area for a couple of days, which it sounds like you are. In 1985 my skis (not my luggage) were delayed several hours due to a connection we had to run to make, but they arrived at the mountain by midnight. Since then, with a lot of international travel included, no issues.

So…the only reason I see for not having a larger bag is your ability to handle the extra size and weight.

Posted by
1259 posts

Tthe luggage discussion here is nearly religious in its fervor.
To address your various issues:

  1. what the consensus is : There is no consensus. You will get advice and anecdotes that support the advice.

  2. taking a River Cruise: Cruisers tend to overpack. River cruising is far less formal and slower paced than sea cruising so you don't actually need as much stuff as you might think. There re hundreds of river cruise video clips out there. Study carefully.

  3. laundry done on the boat so we can pack lighter. : Good thinking, yes. The next level of enlightened one-bag travel is getting comfortable with doing your own laundry in the shower or sink. It's easy.

  4. check a rolling bag and take a carry on: You don't need that much luggage but that is Just My Opinion Based On My Experience. After decades of backpacking and bicycle touring, I know what I need for comfort and warmth in all kinds of weather and feeling secure, for any length of trip, and it all fits easily into a single 45 liter bag, supplemented with a small backpack. Again, just my personal system.

  5. lots of people here prefer basically two carry ons: Only some of us. This is an efficient and simple way to force you to pack less. If you are new to international travel, you will be surprised at how much stuff can buy locally and can simply not pack because you won't need it or use it. However, your comfort and security are more important than experimenting with new travel techniques. Take everything you want and pack it into any number of bags. Debug your system after you get home.

  6. Is it really a lot of trouble to check a bag? It is not. Not at all. The reasons to pack lightly and use only two carry-ons are not based on paranoia of bag loss or waiting at the carousel. Packing light is a method of taking only what is absolutely necessary and enjoying knowing everything you brought is instantly available, if you need it. And, if you take less stuff, you have less to keep track of; unpacking is easy and fast, packing up to depart to the next destination is instantaneous.

There are dozens of websites that feature hundreds of packing lists to help you figure this all out long before you get on the plane. If you want to try one-bag travel (which is really two bags), assemble your gear, pack up, and take a relaxing three-day road trip to a nearby city or attraction. If you stay in a different hotel each night you will get a better idea why packing less is so helpful.

Posted by
6364 posts

I’m going to tell you a secret, but don’t let it out as it will eliminate so many threads on this forum……..
There is no one right way to pack.

Carol, you're breaking the oath!

Another secret: You don't have to carry on a smaller bag. I would suggest (see Lo's post for reasons) two bags light enough that you can handle them easily, but big enough that you can pack everything you want or need. And then feel free to check one, two, or more of the four bags you and your hubs will have.

Or not. Stan and I have chosen to each have one small backpack and one "personal item," and wash clothes as we need to. We prefer to carry on, but aren't dogmatic about it.

In fact, I once had to check a bag in Naples. The other choice was to discard an old but beloved camera and lens. We were flying from Naples to London. It was the day after the subway bombings in London, and security was definitely on edge. We had spent about a week in one place on the Amalfi coast, so I had brought my old SLR 35mm camera, with a couple of extra lenses, one of which was large. The Italian equivalent of the TSA agent took one look at the long lens, and said "No."

The airport was packed, and I had to repack my bags so I could zip my "personal item," which at the time was just a tote bag, run down to the check-in counters, and throw myself on the mercy of the people standing in the long line. It all worked out, I'm pleased to say.

But I digress. (As usual.) Just be sure you can handle the bags for an extended time should you need to, and be flexible.

And have a great trip.

Posted by
11361 posts

You mentioned doing laundry on the ship. Considering what your whole trip costs, have the ship laundry do a load for you. There isn’t much room to hang wet hand laundry in a ship cabin’s bathroom.

Posted by
1516 posts

It may take you several trips to find the method that works best for you, and even then packing styles continue to evolve.

My first international trip was with a tour company that would portage the luggage from the bus to the room and back to the bus. I took a 30 inch bag and a small carry on bag as a day bag. I only packed the bag about half full so that I could buy some wool sweaters. I ended up getting my bag from the bus to my room myself because I wanted my "stuff" before dinner. Then I started taking it down to the bus in the morning to make sure it didn't get left behind. I learned that any large souvenirs could be shipped from the shop directly home and if they couldn't be I didn't want them. Too much hassle carrying those things around! I got plain sick and tired of dealing with that dang bag all the time!

My next trip was a Rick Steves tour. I read all of the packing advice here on the forum and decided to go carry on only. I use an Osprey back pack and a cross-body Tom Bihn messenger bag. I have a lot less stress doing it this way. I also don't want to be stressed by someone else's bags so, if you are traveling with me, you can only bring carry on. (My Mom now brags about being a carry on only traveler. She is less stressed because she no longer brings super dressy clothes to wear to dinner and she can blame it on me!) My brother-in-law is 'allowed' to meet me at a travel destination, but I refuse to travel to or from an airport with him due to this rule of mine.

To be clear, I don't pack this way because somebody else says. I do it because it works well for me.

So, my advice is to read between the lines on this thread and try to figure out what might work for you. Then, modify it for each trip that comes after.

Posted by
5017 posts

Regardless of your final luggage arrangement, consider this for a moment. Pack half of his stuff in your bag(s) and vice versa. Carry on bags do get gate checked on occasion regardless of size or weight. If that happens and a bag becomes disoriented and doesn't show up with the rest, you will each have enough to get by until the wandering bag finds you. Just food for thought.

Posted by
27369 posts

I can't travel to Europe carry-on only because of the non-clothing items I need for my summer-long trips. I take very little clothing and only the pair of shoes on my feet. (I realize many travelers--especially other females--just cannot manage with only one pair of shoes.)

This is something that rarely comes up when we discuss packing: What are your clothes going to look like after being squished into a suitcase for at least 12 hours? That depends to a great degree on the fabric content. Polyester is indestructible but very uncomfortable if you encounter hot weather, so it's not suitable for my trips. (Back in the 1970s I took a lot of polyester, but summertime Europe is a lot warmer than it used to be.) I always end up with some clothing items that come out of my bag in a wrinkled mess. They need to be unpacked, hung up and usually also misted to eliminate wrinkles before they are worn. This is a fairly minor task if you have only a few clothes in your bag. It is a royal pain if you are a heavy packer and have this extra step to perform at every stop. First, you may not have enough hangers or hanging space for all the wrinkled clothes. Second, you'll have to repack everything before you move on. It gets really annoying.

Taking a mix-and-match wardrobe is very, very important. 4 tops and 3 bottoms creates 12 different looks--and that's before you add a scarf or warm layer into the mix.

Posted by
8600 posts

The important point to note in this thread is that the larger part of CissyK's trip is on a river cruise, where you only unpack once, and the crew handles your bags for you. The ship can do laundry for you as well (not cheap but available). So there are a lot fewer movements (besides the airplane) where the difference in size between a carryon and checked size roller bag would make much of a difference in hassle. That's why I vote for checking a bag and taking a smaller carryon as well, as she was first thinking.

Posted by
4442 posts

My current paradigm-the smaller Travel Pro Maxlite wheeled Carryon if I'm traveling on a European carrier, who have lower size and weight limits. A JansSport bookbag for my personal item-cheap, durable, and easy to carry. Be careful not to hit the people behind you when wearing a backpack. We try to do carry-on only but sometimes my husband brings the larger checked bag. There are fold-up small duffles(ours came from LL Bean) that you can pack and check on your way home, when lost luggage will be less of a problem. We put dirty clothes in ours.

A problem with carry-only: your liquids are limited to what you can put in your 3-1-1 bag. It is possible to find soap that can be used as shampoo and solid foundation which don't have to take up precious space in the 3-1-1.

Posted by
7410 posts

I completely agree that there’s not one “right way” to pack for everyone. But, I’ll answer your question: “ Is it really a lot of trouble to check a bag? I know it means a wait at the airport but what other reasons would we NOT want a larger bag?”

We took our first trip together in our ‘50’s to Europe to celebrate our 25th anniversary. It was a Rick Steves tour, and they emphasized only bringing a carry on suitcase; they even gave us a RS suitcase in the tour price. I’ve been to Europe 11 times for 3-week vacations since and traveled globally numerous times for work for a week. What seemed like such a hindrance was actually fantastic & freeing; I’ve never checked a suitcase for 17 years….and always wear clean clothes.

Vacation time is prime valuable time, and I don’t want to spend extra of it in the airport. When you’re taking public transportation, it’s easy to board the bus or tram. Trains are a breeze - usually can put your carry on suitcase on the rack above your head. Lots of train stations are a flight of stairs down & up to reach or double to transfer to the next line. Often that’s 5 -10 minutes to transfer.

But the best reason is that it gives you flexibility for unexpected opportunities on flights. Anytime the gate announces they need some volunteers for X amount of money to take the next flight, it only applies to passengers who didn’t check a bag. We volunteered once at JFK to take the next flight to Seattle, and they gave us two $1000 AMEX money cards! Others who checked their luggage were ineligible.

Last thought - you will get the travel bug for further travel, so it’s nice to have luggage that will work for future trips, too.

Posted by
1259 posts

Forgot to add my anecdotal reason for one-bag travel: Many years ago., someone took my look-alike bag off the Denver carousel. 24 hours to get my stuff although I was sure it had been stolen.

Posted by
18577 posts

With my carryon and personal item combo (both legitimately sized to comply) I can summer and winter trips, carry a nice pair of shoes, sports coat and slacks along with the daily stuff. and that provides for more options where I am going.

Or I can carry a complete fly fishing outfit with out the nice clothes.

Some airlines put a weight limit on carryon (Turkish Air its 8kg) but not on the personal item so I get more flexibility by putting all the heavy stuff in the personal item.

And if I buy a bunch of booze, I can always check the carryon if need be.

BUT! occasionally I just get lazy in my packing and don't feel guilty checking a bag; especially if its a 1 or 2 country trip.

You really can't do wrong.

Posted by
231 posts

Is it wrong to get so excited when I see I have a ton of responses?!? Cause I LOVE all the great advice and can’t wait to check here on my lunch break 😜🤣🤣😜

We have some luggage pieces that are different sizes and I’m going to try the “packing it now advice.” Want to get an idea of how many clothes we are looking at and how they pack. I’ll do toiletries and shoes and the whole shebang.

I didn’t even think about the steps going to and from street to trains so that’s good advice, too. I can handle a carryon for that but at 5’2” the larger bag might be unwieldy. If we check a bag, hubby might have to deal with that one.

I also like the idea of mixing our clothes in the bags. Good thinking!

Thank you all so much. Lots to delve into. Glad I can experiment a bit before we leave next June

Posted by
15580 posts

Don't just pack the bags. Take a walk with them after they are packed. I'm not talking down the hall. I'm talking about a fairly long walk to see how well you do with them. And if there are any rough sidewalks or streets, go there as well.

Posted by
1434 posts

It's great that you have time to "test pack". If you have a kitchen scale, weigh everything as you put it in the suitcase. It will let you know how much weight you are carrying. I know there are a number of people who like to pack 1/2 in one bag and 1/2 in their partner's. Unfortunately, that technique doesn't work for us. We have found that each being responsible for their own stuff has led to greater domestic felicity.

Posted by
3945 posts

We usually do carry on but if we are changing planes we check it. Reason, some airports have a very long walk to the connecting flights and if you have a tight connection dragging a bag, at any weight or size, is difficult and annoying. Direct flights we will carry it on.
We always arrange for a pick up at the airport before we leave. we are too old and too tired upon arrival to take public transportation.

Posted by
220 posts

For me it always is dependent upon two things 1) the weather and 2) how much I plan to buy.

My general packing rule is one rolley checked luggage, inside of that is my rick-steves classic backdoor bag with all of my clothes (this bag is awesome btw--- its held up for many trips and a lot of bad treatment), and then depending upon the weather I'd have a rolley carry on and my camera bag. If things get too tight I take the rick steves bag out and have a huge suitcase for things I may buy, or the hardshell carry-on for things I may buy (depending what they are). This has always worked for me. This is my usual "Europe" plan.... My carry on has anything super important and maybe one change of clothes - so electronics, cleaning supplies (like in this case during covid-times), masks, etc.

However, if I were going to Asia it would be a different ballgame. I hate having a lot of luggage there- its miserable. In that case I'd take one medium to small sized checked bag and that is it. At one point I was actually able to fit enough for 4 weeks in China in one small carry-on hardshell. (that is a bit extreme - 3 pairs of cotton pants and underwear sets and t-shirts I didn't mind throwing out)... BUT- if the weather is going to be hot as a hell inferno and your clothes all cotton and you don't mind washing in the sink- it works great... that of course doesn't work if its colder where you are going in Europe.

I agree with other posters in checking out if you can lift your luggage or not. I've had some amusing times where I've had to ask people to get it up on a train (in Germany and also England). In England I'm surprised the lady didn't break her back- it was a friendly old woman who was like "here toss it" .... :0 I can lift about 30 pounds in a luggage without twisting myself but past that it gets dicey.

Posted by
648 posts

Yep...lots of opinions on luggage. We travel with 22" suitcases which we check because each suitcase often weighs 27 pounds or more. We also each have a carry-on with essentials...and a small backpack with items I will need for the long flight. We are "doing well" traveling with 22" suitcases, because we used to travel with 24" suitcases. I am not at the point of doing only carry-on (baby steps). And, on our last trip, my suitcase was "lost" for almost 48 hours! So, I will be sure to have even more "essentials" in my carry-on bag when we take our next trip.
You are wise to be thinking about how you will deal with suitcases on your cruise + land trip so far in advance A carry-on size will be much easier when you are in Mürren and Amsterdam and Lucerne. Many of the smaller independent hotels' rooms are quite small and there is barely enough room for two-22" suitcases.

Carrie: On our trip to Switzerland, we never put our suitcases in the overhead bins. They were either in our "seating area" or under the seat. So, while it's good that you are working on increasing "arm strength," you may not need to lift your suitcase. Besides, potato chips do not weigh a lot!

Posted by
3618 posts

Adding a couple of thoughts. Yes, you can get almost anything (but not everything) you might need in Europe. However, you may be shocked at the prices. Prescription drugs are way cheaper than in the U.S., but otc meds are really expensive. Once, on a Tuscany trip, I experienced a horrendous allergy attack. I ran through my supply of sudafed and had to buy some at over $1/pill. Another time, I forgot my ibuprofen, taken daily for bad knees. It was only available in 12 packs, which I had to keep buying, 2 at a time, because the pharmacists didn’t want to let me have more. I figured out that I spent more than $40 on it. At home I had a bottle that had cost around $15 for 500. Also, you should be aware that otc meds are available only in pharmacies. I don’t think you can get even an aspirin elsewhere.
Personally, I have no interest in doing laundry by hand. I take enough underwear for a week; and then I go to a laundromat or get it done.
I am able to fit everything I need for a trip into my 21” checked bag and a carry-on that fits in the overhead bin. That includes a fair amount of clothing (at least 5 tops and bottoms, sleepwear, cosmetics, footwear, rain gear, outerwear, at least one pair of shoes besides the ones on my feet, other items depending on destination and season). As others have advised, my essential papers, electronics, meds, a change of clothes, and something to sleep in go in my carry-on. I can’t imagine needing a 24” bag, much less a 26”.

Posted by
231 posts

I’ll make sure we drop some OTC meds in our packs. I have no intention of doing my own laundry in our little cabin on the boat….I do enough of that at Home!!!! I’m gonna be on Vacation!! 😂😂😂

I would love to get it all in a carry on but I just don’t think I can. I’m thinking of making hubby bring the larger check bag and a back pack while I do a carry on and a back pack. Not a super huge checked bag but bigger than a carry on. That might be the best compromise I can do!

But I’m going to try it and see where I get. I might surprise myself! I guess my next question is going to be about packing cubes!!

Posted by
471 posts

Personally, I prefer to check bags. Making sure there's a place on the plane for a big carry-on, gives me anxiety. This has been validated because every flight I've taken recently has reached critical carry-on mass well before everyone has boarded. Do you want to take the chance of a forced checked bag or plan in advance?

That said, I still take a carry-on sized bag and try to stay around 20 pounds. Last time, we were gone 21 days and did laundry once. I plan for that mid-trip. Wearing one pair of very good shoes and taking a pair of flip flops was not a hardship. I brought a "picnic" kit in a small cooler bag with some soft plastic wine glasses, a wine opener, a wine stopper, knife, cutting board, simple utensils and small plates. Very handy on trains. At the risk of sounding like a commercial, I really like my Rick Steves wheeled backpack. It is small enough to carry on but also convenient for trains and public transportation. It is sturdy, has a good footprint, holds a surprising amount but make sure you watch the weight distribution when you pack. If you have to go over rough distances or it is wet, the backpack feature is handy. (Venice was easy!) Following the advice of a tour guide friend, I spray it with waterproof, teflon coating before trips and that helps.

I'm not as concerned about "losing" time at bag check and I haven't lost a bag, yet. After a long flight, I'm never moving too quickly. I'm not into competitive travel and everything usually shakes out fine.

Do what works for you. It will evolve over time to suit your body and travel needs. My short friends and those with bum shoulders always check.

Posted by
59 posts

11 years ago I was in your same situation, overwhelmed with the choices & unsure about lite packing as there were things I felt I needed. Here’s what I did:
Researched the lightest backpack suitcases & bought an osprey & the back back that attaches to it. It has a belt around the waist that takes pressure off & a chest strap. Watch the video on how to use it.
I pack 20 pounds or less. No clothes make the trip unless they can be matched with 2 items. Follow Rick’s packing guide on what to pack & drop off laundry once or twice.
I always carry luggage on.
It’s a real game changer!

Posted by
15580 posts

I'll get the ball rolling on packing cubes....

Some people live them, some people hate them.

I'm in the live them and use them camp. I find they keep me organized and give me more space. Figuring out which ones to use is like playing a game of tetris.

As for brands. There are dozens of them. I have quite a few and tend to lean towards those that are lightweight and can compress somewhat. I'm also thinking if returning to a shirt folder as much current cubes cause my shirts to wrinkle.

Posted by
2792 posts

Carol, I completely forgot about under the seats. Thanks for the reminder for that option. And I might need an extra suitcase or two just for those paprika chips. 😊

Frank, another huge packing cube fan here. I like the ones from Eagle Creek. A big cube for pants and fleece (both pants and fleece folded), a medium cube for shirts (all shirts are rolled), and a small cube for undergarments.

Posted by
1117 posts

Everything has been said, but not by everyone. :-) So let me add my 2cts worth on a few side aspects:

Backpacks: Don't just choose for weight. Choose for comfort. Does it have a padded waist strap, and padded shoulder straps? Does it fit your size and body shape perfectly? A light backpack is not worth its weight if it's so uncomfortable your back or your shoulders hurt after an hour.

Shoes: Wear the heaviest ones you are taking on your trip. We always take hiking boots, and it saves us half a suitcase to have those on our feet instead of in our luggage.

lots of people here prefer basically two carry ons

That's a great way to make friends on a plane right to begin with. You will immediately have something to talk about with your neighbor when they find that you have already occupied all the space in the overhead bin that was meant for three passengers. ;-)

Keep in mind also that airlines do have different rules on carry on luggage. I have seen people having to check one piece of their carry on at the gate because they wouldn't let them in with all their stuff.

On our trip to Switzerland, we never put our suitcases in the overhead

@Carol: You were lucky the train wasn't too crowded. If it's crowded, the conductor may make you free up all space in the seating area. And not all trains have enough space for suitcases under the seats. So you may end up being required to lift them up to the overhead bin; I've had that happen more than once. Lucky you if you find a fellow passenger who is tall and helpful.

Posted by
4442 posts

In his previous life, my husband was a cancer researcher. Now he is a biotech executive who travels constantly-he's currently scheduled for 5 trips to Europe from this Nov to next Sept. He says the inventor of packing cubes deserves the Nobel prize.

Posted by
1259 posts

But I’m going to try it and see where I get. I might surprise myself!

Experimenting might work but only if you remain objective.

I guess my next question is going to be about packing cubes!!

Please don't ask. It's another topic that stirs religious fervor.

Posted by
3244 posts

Anna is right that some of us utilize the carryon and the personal item in our packing system. However, on the airlines I fly, mostly BA these days,(but Delta, American, Iceland Air, Air France,SAS in past) the personal item is much smaller and has to be placed under the seat in front so it doesn’t affect bin space. Also, one should always pack as if they end up only with their personal item. However, when packing both items should be planned simultaneously, IMO. I can fit my change of clothes in my 12x16x5 PI, plus electronics, meds, documents, financials, snacks, etc. if I am not sure I will check my wheeled carryon, I will have the extra clothes packed in a long narrow cube that I can easily pull out if gate checked and fit into my personal item. I could travel indefinitely with my PI.

A pilot friend, who traveled with his family often (obviously) said never to have one large bag, but have smaller ones you can easily lift and handle alone. For example one small wheeled carryon, backpack, crossbody…assuming here one is checked.

Posted by
3961 posts

My luggage preference is similar to BethFL. We have the Travelpro 22.” It’s 2 wheeled & light weight to maneuver on plane, train & to accommodations. No matter if it’s for a month or less our goal weight is <20 lbs. I have a light wt. personal bag that has a trolley sleeve. I am able to pack an extra “just in case outfit” when we check our bags. My husband has a backpack as his personal bag. Both our bags fit well under the seat in front of us. “Is it really a lot of trouble to check a bag?” As personal preference/experience I would say no.

Posted by
231 posts

I promise not to ask the packing cube question. I’ll just scroll posts about them and read up on what’s already been discussed!!
I will head over to some of the luggage websites to take a look at luggage brands mentioned. Or is there a particular site (besides RS) that everyone thinks is good?

Ooooh. Looked up trolley sleeve!! That’s cool. Looks super convenient.

Posted by
15580 posts

Sadly, there are no longer any good "luggage" websites anymore. Every company has its own.

Quite a few people here go to discount stores like TJ Mass and Ross because they carry a large selection. If you do that, bring along a tspe measure and a luggage scale. Be aware some brands don't include the wheels in their dinensions. The airlines do.

Also be aware that some airlines restrict the weight of both your check in bags and your carryons. Keep that in mind.

Posted by
2792 posts

Or is there a particular site (besides RS) that everyone thinks is

Amazon has great prices on the Travelpro suitcases.

Posted by
15580 posts

I don't know where you are in NC, but you could also check REI and even the AAA. Both sell some luggage as well as packing cubes and other travel goods.

Posted by
195 posts

If you are looking for inexpensive packing cubes I can recommend TJMax. Three for 10.00. They make packing so much easier.

Posted by
15580 posts

Ikea has packing cubes that are surprisingly decent. A pack of three for $5 and a two sided cube for $4.

The also sell a pack of different size liquid bottles for $4 that don't leak.

I have the above items.

Search for "travel accessories" on their website. They also have inexpensive travel bags. (I have no judgement on these as I have never seen them in person.)

Posted by
811 posts

As far as checking your main bag goes. We do it. I find that people who carry on their bags to be unable to lift them, to get in the way in the plane aisles and to delay both embarking and disembarking.
In the airports all those no check my bags people get in the way walking two abreast with their roller bags out to the side impeding traffic. They take up more space in the food areas by the tables or when waiting in lines.
I find it to be inconsiderate.

Posted by
231 posts

Packing cubes are on my “get” list but I gotta get luggage first!! Thanks for the tips!